Making Ancestral Tourism pay: Welcome to ‘myancestralscotland’

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The University of Strathclyde’s Business School has, for the last three years, been researching the potential of ancestral tourism within Scotland. Here, Dr Matthew Alexander explains a little about their findings, the project that has grown out of their research and how this can help museums.

“Our ancestral tourism research has revealed a market that has great potential for Scotland’s museums.

According to Visit Scotland some 10 million people around the world are interested in finding out more about their Scottish ancestors, however only around 200,000 make the trip.

“Although our research reveals that some visitors do have amazing experiences we also identified some challenges that museums face in accommodating requests and visits related to ancestral tourism. We know that many visitors arrive in Scotland with limited information and as a result can go to the wrong place, arrive when facilities are closed, arrive when no professional help is available or do not allocate enough time for a visit. This makes delivering an outstanding ancestral tourism experience a huge challenge. Additionally we know that hundreds of emails are exchanged between the Scottish diaspora and Scotland’s large network of museums every week but that, for the most part and despite the time and effort put in to responding to these queries, this information is given absolutely free.

“To tackle these challenges and ensure that the professional services that museums offer are appropriately rewarded we have created – a website that makes local Scottish ancestral services available to the Scottish diaspora worldwide on more of a commercial basis.

“There are two specific user groups on the site: ‘providers’ and ‘users’:

Users (e.g. a member of the public): those interested in discovering more about their ancestral past. The site allows users to create a unique profile of their ancestors which they can use to search for and contact providers.

Example of how a user profile will look on
User profile example

Providers (e.g. museums, heritage centres, family or local history society, clan affiliated organisation or even a local archive or library): those suppliers able to provide information to users. The provider creates their own profile on the site including images, facilities and opening hours and information users can search to find appropriate suppliers to help. Once a user has found a provider they feel can help with their research, the provider receives a message and will be able to review the user’s ancestral profile to help with their response. Receiving and responding to these messages will earn the museum credits which can be converted into a cash amount and paid directly to the provider from the site. If, after reviewing a message and profile, the provider goes on to offer to make a search of your their records, this would earn more credits (and, thus, more cash).

“The site allows providers to track the interactions they have with users – meaning if multiple members of staff are using the system at once all correspondence and activity can be tracked and duplication avoided.

We would love Scotland’s museums to be on board when we launch the site in early 2017. To join as a provider is absolutely free and the sign up process has been designed to be very straightforward. If you’d like further information about getting involved we are happy to chat you through things.

“We are very grateful for the support of the Scottish Ancestral Tourism Group who have supported us in the development of the site. We have a short presentation which gives a visual overview of the site which can be viewed here alternatively you can contact me at the University for a chat.”

Dr Matthew Alexander works in the Department of Marketing at Strathclyde Business School. Research by Dr Alexander alongside colleagues Dr Derek Bryce and Dr Samantha Murdy can be viewed here.

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